Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Oldest Church in Rome

The earliest Christian church in Rome was built into the side of the Palatine Hill. Buried by an earthquake in the 9th century AD, it lay preserved but forgotten for a thousand years. 
During archeological digs in the Roman Forum in 1902, archeologists were amazed to discover an ancient church with painted frescoes covering every surface. 
The paintings began to break down right away so preservation efforts began immediately and have continued over the decades until this year.
 Now called Santa Maria Antiqua, the site temporarily reopened to the public this summer. Bill and I were there. Come inside with us.
The church was in use from the 6th to the 9th centuries. It is a wonder even to walk on the ancient tiled floors.

The frescoes are fine examples of Byzantine art

What a revelation
after a thousand years!
Fascinating too were the chapels on either side of the main altar.
The early 8th century Chapel of the Medical Saints
was visited by the sick
in hopes of a cure.
The richly decorated, mid-8th century Chapel of Theodotus bears the name of the donor, 
but is dedicated to early Christian saints, Julietta and the child, Quiricus.
Finally we passed by the western wall
with its rows
of well-preserved Saints
to this stunning fragment of an Annunciation.
As if the church itself is not enough the current exhibition includes 6th century mosaics
from the original Basilica of Saint Peter
on loan from the Vatican.
One final glimpse of the space before it closes to the general public. Check the official webpage for future openings. We'll leave you with this large icon -- it is the earliest surviving image of the Madonna and Child (6th century AD) in Rome.


  1. Wow I am so glad you were able to visit this church site.
    Thanks for the photos.

  2. We were so lucky that the timing worked out for us. It was opened especially for Pope Francis' Jubilee of Mercy this year only. Might be open in the future for tour groups -- not sure.

  3. Thanks for a beautiful tour of this church.